Saturday, September 3, 2016

Movie Review: "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" (2014)

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Movie"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Year: 2014
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

After the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) drops out of his doctorate program to join the Marines. When his transport is hit with an RPG, he gets sent back home, severely injured and needing physical therapy. While going through treatment, he falls in love with his therapist Cathy Muller (Keira Knightly). He is also approached at the hospital by Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), who wants to recruit Ryan into the CIA. Jack joins the agency, but can't tell anyone what he does, not even Cathy. After many years together, Cathy starts to grow suspicious, and Jack's latest assignment may even put her in danger. 

The role of Jack Ryan has been played by many different actors over the years, from Alec Baldwin to Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. Now, Chris Pine gets a chance to put his spin on the iconic CIA figurehead. One of the most glaring things we should point out about "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" is that it's the first film in the series that's not adapted from a Jack Ryan novel. It is also the first one of the series to use Jack Ryan's name in the title. Knowing only these two things, you should be able to assess this is a different type of Jack Ryan picture. This one is meant to be a reboot of sorts, an effort to restart the series featuring a younger Jack Ryan, beginning from his days in the military. It also places the character in a more modern era, showing his recruitment into the CIA as well as displaying the relationship between Jack and his wife Cathy, played by Keira Knightly.

Upon watching this film, we noticed it doesn't really feel like a Jack Ryan picture as it is far more action and spy oriented than any of the previous films. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this: it was not originally written to be a Jack Ryan film. "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" was initially written as an original action film. The studio converted it and switched the main character to be Jack Ryan because studios fear originality and they thought the project as a whole would excel more if it had a familiar character name attached to it. Obviously, this was a clear miscalculation by the studio as this is the lowest grossing film in the franchise's history. Let's be fair, this is not a downright bad movie. It does have a few good or exciting moments here and there, but the pacing is all sorts of a drag. There are many elongated periods where too much bickering is taking place between Jack and Cathy as it tries to pull a "True Lies" "I'm a secret spy so now you have to help me in my mission" scenario. The major difference is this movie is no "True Lies." Also, there are far too many chase scenes once Cathy discovers what's really going on. Finally, in the past, there have been some commanding performances as Jack Ryan by the likes of the aforementioned Baldwin, Affleck, and Ford, all of which do a much better job than Chris Pine. It's not that we don't like the guy, but the acting is just alright, nothing to write home about.

This is our least favorite Jack Ryan movie. It had so much potential that was squandered away, and with a little tightening in the script and trimming of the run time, it could have been something much more cohesive and action-packed. It was really doomed from the start by whatever idiot studio-head said this should be converted into a movie featuring Jack Ryan, but whatever spy thriller it was meant to be wouldn't have been exceptional or groundbreaking, either.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 56%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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